Throughout Charles’s book we have been shown how habits can be changed, or even exploited, on a personal, professional and social level. We are taught the components of the habit loop and given some pretty good ideas as to how we can use our understanding of how habits work to better ourselves. Now, just like in chapter 9 of Duhigg’s book, we are going to talk about when it is socially acceptable to excuse people’s habit driven behaviors.
In a case mentioned in this chapter involving gambling; the fact that it really is an addiction, because of the way a Pathological Gambler’s mind is wired, is acknowledged. It is pointed out hear that science isn’t sure if the habits associated with gambling are hereditary or if it is something that is developed in the brain over time; perhaps via constant exposure to things like online video games, internet based gambling or regularly visiting a casino in person. However, it is known that gambling for some is a problem because their brain registers a near win as a win, even though it registers as a loss for the rest of us. Yup! Constantly thinking that you might win the next time because you almost won this time is pretty much the way gambling addictions certainly can start!
The other cases Duhigg covers involve physical assaults, rapes and murders committed by people while they are asleep mentally but not physically. These events took place, not just while people were sleep walking, but during what are known as night terrors. Unlike sleep walking; night terrors are totally habit driven. They cause an unconscious person to act totally upon impulse/urge/habit alone without any of the safeguards that the subconscious mind is able to influence over the average sleep walker. In fact, no part of the mind is really involved in a night terror beyond Brain Stem and Basal Ganglia activity.
In those instances where people commit crimes due to an addiction like gambling, because the conscious mind is involved (meaning the individual is fully awake), Charles tells us that it is right that they are held accountable for their actions. Duhigg says that this is because they are fully cognizant of what is going on. Therefore it is generally felt that they do have the power to change their negative behavior through that awareness.
However, we are told in chapter 9 of Mr. Duhigg’s book that when an individual commits a crime (rape, murder, etc.) during the course of a night terror the person is not held responsible. This is, of course, if they had no idea that their unconscious behavior would lead to the commission of such a crime. But, if we are sleep walkers and have exhibited violent tendencies in the past that we knew could lead to serious harm of another human being we are obligated to do something about it, which makes us responsible if we don’t.